Cortona is a richly historic city that enjoys a scenic position above Lake Trasimeno and the plain of Valdichiana, dotted with olive groves and vineyards. It is one of Tuscany's oldest cities, and home to some of its best-preserved Etruscan buildings. Cortona also has a strong artistic pedigree, reflected in its status as a 'City of Art', and was home to Luca Signorelli and Pietra da Cortona. The ancient city has become even more popular due to being the location for several much loved books by Frances Mayes.
Most of the Etruscan city is hidden in basements but part of the original 4th-century BC walls can be seen at the base of Porta Colonia's outer side. Climbing the city's cut-stone staircases and meandering along its cobbled streets guides one back through the past from the Renaissance to the Middle Ages and beyond. The medieval houses along Via Janelli are the oldest in Italy; massive timber beams support their overhanging upper stories. Other places of special interest for people on holiday in Cortona include the Palazzo Comunale, Museo dell'Accademia Etrusca (containing a number of major Etruscan artefacts) and the church of San Francesco, the first Franciscan church outside Assisi.